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Reno mayor plans crackdown on local motel owners to clean up blighted businesses

MOTEL SIGN

If you drove through Reno decades ago, motels were an essential business in the city that drew people from the farthest corners of the country to see world-class entertainment and gamble.

"And if you look at the history of the motels," Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said, "they were needed when Reno was hustling and bustling and there was all this entertainment here."

But Reno's motels are no longer a place for out-of-towners to rest their head for the night. Now, most motels have become long-term housing solutions for people who can't afford to live anywhere else.

"Because rents are going up, people are having trouble just getting into some place and that's why people are getting into motel living I think." David is one of those people. He did not want to disclose his last name.

With poor credit and no savings, David couldn't afford to rent an apartment, so he's lived in a Reno motel for the past month and a half.

He said he moved into a motel after he got out of rehab. "Had a bunch of bad circumstances happen. Lost a paid-for home at Damonte Ranch and my addiction kicked back in."

David's motel room isn't just a place to sleep at night. It's a safe haven for his recovery; a chance to press restart. "I have restarted my life again and I'm struggling to get back to where I once was."

He said living in his motel room is much different than living in the South Reno house he once owned. "You don't have a kitchen. It's different that you don't have extra space you know. It's like living in a bedroom."

But David said he's grateful to have a safe place to call home.

"If this wasn't here or the price was to go up, I don't know what I would do."

He's hardly alone. Another one of the thousands of motel tenants in Reno said her situation could be much worse.

"This place at least has all its doors and windows, you know?" Mary Burger has lived in the Gateway Inn motel for four years, but the owner has raised her rent nearly $200 since the beginning of the year, so she started looking for another place to live.

Burger said, "My daughter took me around to a few places downtown and they looked horrible. They looked much worse than this."

Mayor Hillary Schieve shares the same concern She's said the motels are one of the biggest contributors to blight in her community.

"I just think it's completely unacceptable, and again as the mayor of this city, I want people to know this will not be tolerated." Schieve said she plans to crack down on motel operators and force them to bring their establishments up to code.

"It could be so much as kitchenettes inside those units," Schieve said, "but also making sure those linens are changed. That's what you would expect when you go to a motel or hotel and that's not happening in certain places. Even the plumbing is not acceptable."

Schieve told News 4/Fox 11 she's working with the city council and the Reno Housing Authority to enact ordinances that would require motel owners to provide certain amenities for their tenants. She said if owners have multiple code violations, city officials could have the power to come in and make repairs, then leave the bill with the operator.

"We certainly want to make sure that those property owners and operators are doing what's right. Just because someone can't afford a lot doesn't mean you treat them inhumanely."

Mayor Schieve just announced crews will begin demolishing a vacant motel at 4275 W. Fourth Street on Wednesday morning. City officials said the motel has been vacant for about 6 months. S3 Development Co. plans to build 164 new apartments at that location.

Schieve said the construction project is the beginning of her "Blight Buster" initiative to clean up downtown and bring more housing to Reno. In a statement, the mayor said, “the removal of blighted properties strengthens neighborhoods and reduces crime rates. And the replacement of eyesores with attractive new housing helps meet the need for housing created by Reno’s vibrant economy.”


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